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Executive protection: an ironclad defense.


TO WHAT LENGTHS MUST CORPORATIONS go to protect their executives? How do companies provide adequate protection within existing security policies? And what about executives' families? How prepared are they to cope with crisis? All of these are questions confronting today's security managers.

US jurisprudence has maintained that people are not obligated to impoverish themselves to save another unless some kind of special duty is in force. Historically, corporations were not regarded as having such a special duty toward their employees.(1) This attitude is changing however. The landmark case involves Gustavo Curtis, the American manager of Industries Gran Colombia (ICG), a subsidiary of Beatrice Foods Company, a US-based multinational.(2)

On September 28, 1976, Curtis was kidnapped in Bogota. Believing that Curtis or his wife was involved in the kidnapping, the Beatrice Foods Company refused to pay the demanded $5 million ransom. After a lie detector test cleared Mrs. Curtis, the company paid a $430,000 ransom to secure Curtis's release.

A year later, on March 25, 1978, the Curtises filed suit in federal court in New York City, asking $185 million in damages from Beatrice Foods on the grounds that the company had not done enough to protect Curtis or to effect his release.(3) Although the case was dismissed, it has forced corporations to reevaluate their security responsibilities to their employees.

No corporate security directors or private security companies today have an easy task in protecting modern executives. Executives are symbols of the strength, power, and wealth of modern corporations. Friend and foe alike identify them with the organizations they represent, making them convenient targets for all who stand to gain from their exploitation.

Today's corporate executives face four separate threats. The first is the threat of terrorism. As the corporate world continues to shrink and the executive role continues to expand, terrorists view executives as a means to economic or political gain. The second threat is criminal or random attack, which tends to be economically motivated. Crimes committed are usually kidnapping, extortion, or robbery.

The third threat is random injury. Executives have much more chance of being hurt or killed in an accident than by any criminal act. An executive injured or killed in an automobile or industrial accident is no less a loss to his or her corporation than one killed by terrorists or kidnappers. Therefore, general executive safety is a concern to security managers.

The final threat comes from the media. While the media seldom pose a lethal threat to executives, the loss in time and productivity caused by the press can be calculated in direct corporate dollar losses. Increased public exposure also makes executives and their families much more visible targets.

The first task of any security director charged with executive protection is to complete a full threat analysis. An analysis will show which of the previously mentioned threats are probable dangers.

The following are questions security directors must ask. What is the most likely threat to executives? Have terrorists been active in the area or the country? Has the corporation or other similar corporations been the target of terrorist attacks in the past? Have there been threats against either the corporation or an executive? If the answer to any question is yes, an improved security program must be put into effect immediately, because the chance of a terrorist attack exists.

Next, questions about executives' lifestyles must be answered. Are their lifestyles highly visible? Do executives do television commercials for the corporation? Are any executives well-known for charitable donations or activities? Is the corporation visible in either the press or the community? If the answer to any question is yes, executives are potential victims of random crime such as kidnapping or robbery. Active press coverage increases executives' visibility and links them to their company's wealth.

Do executives participate in any dangerous sports? Do they drive themselves instead of using professional drivers? Do any have a record of drinking--or worse, drinking and driving? Are there chronic or life-threatening diseases in any executives' history? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, the potential for accidental death or serious injury to an executive and a loss to the corporation exists.

After conducting a comprehensive threat analysis and answering these questions, corporate security managers have a basis for a security plan. Any security system must be comprehensive, not simply a series of fragmented components. Perfect security does not exist. However, security is cumulative in that the more precautions taken, the lower a target's vulnerability. How much risk can be controlled depends on how serious a threat is and how many resources can be allocated to manage it.(4)

However, according to Jan Reber and Paul Shaw in the Executive Protection Manual, "A security program can never be based merely upon a response to a specific level of threat. The security program must be an ongoing, positive response to existing problems and potential emergencies.... A level of security must be maintained so that all contingencies can be coped with easily, without requiring massive, unusual precautions in the event of an emergency."(5)

Executive protection begins with the executives themselves. They must cope emotionally with the possibility of being singled out and attacked at any moment merely because they are employed by a particular corporation or agency. Violence is not part of an executive's everyday world. The possibility of violence, if freely allowed to influence his imagination, might produce tension and fear.(6)

FOR TERRORISTS TO BE SUCCESSFUL in their endeavors, they need information--information on security procedures, locations of personnel, travel plans, and personal data. The best defense is to restrict the following information:

* movement patterns, habits, and general life-styles of executives and their families

* executives' business and personal travel plans, itineraries, and modes of travel

* physical layout and details of executives' homes and offices

* facts about the organization or corporation where executives are employed--their responsibilities, associates, and organizational or corporate activities

* both existing and planned security measures and procedures for executives and their families(7)

Avoiding patterned behavior, adopting a low profile, maintaining awareness of terrorists' surveillence techniques and staying constantly alert for attack are vital strategies that executives must practice for their own protection.(8) At the same time executives must be able to perform their duties--that is what they are paid to do.(9)

The largest single threat facing executives from terrorists or criminals is kidnapping. Brookes McClure argued in a 1976 paper titled "Hostage Survival" that between 1971 and 1975 kidnappers gained $80 million in ransom for hostages in Latin America alone. Kidnappers in most countries had an 80 percent chance of escaping capture or death. For victims the good news was only about 4 percent of them were killed by terrorists.(10)

At no time is a potential victim more vulnerable than when he or she is in transit, especially when riding in an automobile. In 80 percent of all terrorist kidnappings, victims are taken from automobiles.(11)

Two of the most sensational kidnapping incidents in recent years involved West German industrialist Hanns-Martin Schleyer and former Italian Premier Aldo Moro. In both cases abductors halted the car carrying their target, killed the bodyguards, and escaped without a trace with their victim in tow.(12)

Executives traveling in vehicles are most vulnerable to seven methods of assault: attack, entry or break-in, ambush, execution, kidnapping, sabotage, and bombing.(13)

According to Reber and Shaw, terrorists assess vehicular vulnerability according to the following criteria:

* inherent shortcomings in vehicle equipment and design

* weaknesses in driver's capabilities

* possibility of subverting driver

* driver's rigid habits or indulgences

* protective personnel's preparation for all contingencies

* executive's habits or indulgences

* weaknesses or rigidity in protective patterns

* discernable patterns of vehicular movement or placement that allow commitment of terrorist resources to a specific time and place(14)

Thus, for executives who face a very real threat of kidnapping, vehicles should be hardened. In The War Against Terrorism, Neil Livingstone states:

The door panels, engine bulk-head,

roof, and trunk wall of a

hardened car should be armored

using Kevlar in combination with

aluminum oxide ceramic tiles,

nylon ballistic cloth, or nylon

laminates. The battery case,

radiator, engine compartment, and

fuel tank also should be

reinforced and the floor of the vehicle

made blast proof. Many

manufacturers use fuel cells developed

for racing cars, often wrapped in

nylon batting to prevent

perforation of the fuel tank and to

reduce the possibility of a fire or


Dense plastic or bullet-resistant

glass is a standard feature of

virtually all hardened cars. Most

such cars use compartmentalized

run-flat tires. Dual reinforced

bumpers permit ramming;

special locks on the trunk, doors,

and hood prevent unwanted entry

to the vehicle.(15)

Hardening vehicles not only protects clients against terrorist and criminal attack but also makes vehicles much safer in any accident that may be encountered. Hardened vehicles combined with defensive driving training for drivers, whether the executives themselves or professionals, greatly reduces the chance of serious injury or death in an automobile accident.

The threat level either at home or in the office is substantially less than in an automobile, but a judicious use of alarms, lighting, and guards will ensure the safety of both executives and their families. The US State Department issues guidelines for US embassy protection that can easily be used to protect both home and corporate facilities.

EXECUTIVES ARE NOT THE ONLY ones who need protection. Executives' families are also the security manager's responsibility. Security managers must make allowances for difficulties in protecting spouses, teenagers, and small children--no easy task in foreign locations.

When a trauma such as a kidnapping occurs, it strains all family members. Families may blame the country, the corporation, or even the executives themselves for putting them through such misery. It is important that a family be conditioned to function as a unit during a crisis. Only self-discipline and cooperation can overcome the psychological assaults of such a situation.(16)

Reber and Shaw state that the following topics must be addressed in helping families cope with the pressures of a security presence:

* problems of the family as a unit in a foreign environment.

* special security measures for the executive

* special security measures for the family

* threat to individual family members

* the family during a corporate crisis

* the family during a personal crisis

* special problems or harassment(17)

Individual family members may develop special interests or relationships that occupy their time and cause them to ignore security measures.(18) Extra-marital affairs, in particular, cause problems for security managers. By their very nature, affairs are secret activities that executives do not want generally known.

Executives are likely to hide extra-marital activities even from security managers. Managers must stress that for anyone to avoid security in any way could be fatal. Executives must be convinced that security managers will protect their confidences as well as their lives, and managers have the duty of building this trust and respect.

Harassment may be a reality that families must learn to deal with objectively. According to Reber and Shaw this can be accomplished if

* family members understand that they as individuals are not the real targets but that harassment is directed against the stereotypes they represent, and

* they freely discuss incidents of harassment and humiliation with each other and with other members of the community. Harassment must be viewed as a happenstance, not as a stigma on the family.(19)

Executive protection sometimes includes two controversial methods--bodyguards and kidnap ransom insurance. Each has benefits and drawbacks that security managers must discuss with corporate decision makers and attorneys.

The use of bodyguards is a policy decision. Using large numbers of bodyguards to protect a few executives deters all but the most determined attack. One or two bodyguards, however, may attract attention that executives might otherwise not receive.(20) The use of bodyguards is one of the most advanced personal security systems available. Most chief executive officers should consider using them when traveling overseas or attending special functions such as stockholders' meetings.(21)

According to Jerome H. Glazebrook, bodyguards should be knowledgeable on the following:

* counterterrorism tactics

* client's medical history

* first aid, including administering oxygen and recognizing heart attack symptoms

* proper dressing, to blend in at any occasion

* formal dining etiquette

* fighting and shooting skills

* politics, to know where a client's enemy might come from and why

* government and law enforcement agency contacts, fully research and assess threats

* chauffeuring and defensive and evasive driving techniques(22)

Because they must both protect executives and accompany them in personal and business situations, bodyguards must be exceptionally honest and discreet. Bodyguards are technical aids to executives but must also teach the executives they protect to help themselves. Bodyguards may be killed or incapacitated in an attack, so they should constantly be teaching executives how to avoid and deal with an attack and how to respond if captured.(23)

Hiring bodyguards involves considerable expense and has a dramatic impact on the life-style of executives and their families. Security managers must ensure that bodyguards and families are compatible. Bodyguards should become part of the family without becoming subservient to it.(24)

The final security concern is kidnap ransom insurance. According to Cassidy, David Ltd., an insurance underwriter, the following standard conditions apply to all kidnap and ransom insurance policies:

* The policy is one of reimbursement. No insurer ever pays or funds a ransom payment. It only settles claims once an incident is over.

* The existence of an insurance policy must never be disclosed. If it is, insurers have the right to void payment of any claim.

* Cooperation with law enforcement agencies is a condition of the insurance contract.

* Underwriters will not reimburse any insured who commits an illegal act.

* The policy limit of the insurance is always less than the net worth of the insured.(25)

To satisfy claims, insurance companies require proof of the kidnapping, proof of the ransom payment, and usually some proof of the disposition of the victim.(26) Lloyd's of London, as well as other insurers, underwrites many kidnap and ransom insurance policies. Companies that want to take out such a policy should contact an insurer directly. Obviously, all such contacts are held in strictest confidence.

All security must work in concert. None of these steps alone will protect executives. Only the careful application of self-protection, mechanical devices, and human resources keeps executives safe. And although no security plan is absolutely foolproof, security managers can never stop trying to perfect their programs.

(1)Neil C. Livingstone, The War Against Terrorism (Toronto: Lexington Books, 1982), p. 236. (2)Livingstone, p. 236. (3)Livingstone, p. 236. (4)Livingstone, p. 204. (5)Jan Reber and Paul Shaw, Executive Protection Manual (Schiller Park, IL: MTI Telegrams Inc., 1980), p. 61. (6)Reber and Shaw, p. 61. (7)Reber and Shaw, p. 138. (8)Reber and Shaw, p. 142. (9)Reber and Shaw, p. 137. (10)Tony Geraghty, The Bullet-Catchers: Bodyguards and the World of Close Protection (London: Grafton Books, 1988), p. 279. (11)Livingstone, p. 205. (12)Livingstone, p. 206. (13)Reber and Shaw, p. 68. (14)Reber and Shaw, p. 70. (15)Livingstone, p. 208. (16)Reber and Shaw, p. 183. (17)Reber and Shaw, p. 181. (18)Reber and Shaw, p. 184. (19)Reber and Shaw, p. 185. (20)Reber and Shaw, p. 179. (21)Anthony J. Scotti, Executive Safety and International Terrorism: A Guide for Travellers (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall Inc., 1986), p. 158. (22)Glenn Plaskin, "Coping with Bodyguards," M, December 1985, p. 72. (23)Reber and Shaw, p. 179. (24)Scotti, p. 161. (25)Geraghty, p. 288. (26)Reber and Shaw, p. 259.

Norman S. Leach is a security consultant and researcher for the Counter-Terror Study Center at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He is a member of ASIS.
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Author:Leach, Norman S.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Feb 1, 1990
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